By John Gardner
Racing got back to normal this past weekend, with all the hoopla of Memorial Day weekend fading in the rear-view mirror. NASCAR had all three of its top classes at Dover Downs’ Monster Mile, while Champ Car conducted one of its two oval races of the season at the historic Milwaukee Mile. The World Rally Championship returned to Turkey for a second year, while the big sportscar teams were at Le Mans for the annual test day in advance of the big 24-hour race in two weeks’ time.
Round and round and round they go, where do they stop? Read on and you’ll know:
NASCAR: Biffle Masters the Monster Mile
Roush Racing’s Greg Biffle won his fourth NASCAR Nextel Cup victory of the season with a strong performance at Dover Downs on Sunday, posting a 4.281sec margin of victory over currently-hot rookie Kurt Busch. Biffle credited his Doug Richert-led crew with making significant adjustments to his car throughout the 400-lap race that enabled him to dominate the second half.
Biffle took the lead on Lap 241 and led all but ten of those remaining, giving Ford and the Roush squadron their sixth victory of the year and cutting further into championship leader Jimmie Johnson’s points lead, which is now down to 46 points.
Biffle’s senior teammate Mark Martin, always strong at Dover, finished third ahead of Johnson and Rusty Wallace, vaulting himself up six positions to sixth in points. Brian Vickers, Matt Kenseth, Ryan Newman, Kurt Busch and Elliott Sadler rounded out the top ten, giving Roush four of the ten (and five if your count Sadler, whose Robert Yates Racing Taurus runs a Roush/Yates powerplant).
Trouble befell some popular competitors, most notably Jeff Gordon, who was tapped by Tony Stewart and crashed out in an incident that also collected Ricky Rudd. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Dale Jarrett finished 22nd and 23rd, putting both beyond the 400-point cutoff for those eligible for the Nextel Chase for the Championship that goes into effect after the 26th race of the season.
For Biffle, the only trouble of the day occurred after the checkered flag, when he over-exuberantly backed into the front stretch wall while doing celebratory doughnuts. Timing, as they say, is everything.
The series moves on to the 2.5-mile triangle that is Pocono Raceway next weekend.
NASCAR Nextel Cup Top Five:
1) Greg Biffle, No. 16 Roush Racing Ford Taurus, 400 laps
2) Kyle Busch, No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Monte Carlo, 400 laps
3) Mark Martin, No. 6 Roush Racing Ford Taurus, 400 laps
4) Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Monte Carlo, 400 laps
5) Rusty Wallace, No. 2 Penske Racing South Dodge Charger, 400 laps
Driver’s Championship: 1) Jimmie Johnson, 1912; 2) Greg Biffle, 1866; 3) Elliott Sadler, 1681; 4) Ryan Newman, 1672; 3) Tony Stewart, 1606.
Busch Series: Truex Plays it Smart at
Defending Busch Series champ Martin Truex Jr. claimed his third victory of the season at Dover Downs on Saturday, playing a waiting game and letting the race come to him. Kevin Harvick had the dominant car for the first two-third of the race, but when his handling went away, Truex was ready to take up the mantle.
Truex passed Harvick with 70 of the 200 laps remaining and led all but four of the remaining laps to claim his second consecutive victory at Dover. Harvick tried to hang on to get a good finish, but crashed with Kyle Busch with 54 laps to go.
Rookie standout Reed Sorenson inherited second place upon the demise of Harvick and Busch and led Jamie McMurrary, Dale Jarrett and Jimmie Johnson to the finish. Tony Raines, Jason Keller, Greg Biffle, Kenny Wallace, and Joe Nemechek completed the top ten.
Point leader Carl Edwards had a bad day. He lost the lead to Harvick on the second lap and eventually retiring with mechanical problems, which diminished his lead in the championship standings to 74 points over Sorenson, who along with Truex passed Clint Bowyer in the standings to take over second and third.
The big Busch Series news of the week was that Shane Hmiel failed a drug test at Charlotte, and was escorted from the track and indefinitely suspended from the series at Dover on Friday. Hmiel had tested positive for a banned substance in late 2003 and worked his way back into the sport last year. He had shown flashes of brilliance since, despite creating some controversy with crashes and ill-timed comments. The final disposition of his case will not be known until later in the week, but the son of longtime crew chief Steve Hmiel (currently working as crew chief for Dale Earnhardt Jr.) may be facing a permanent ban from the sport.